As we move into the holiday season we need to remember the hazards we inadvertently create for our pets — both cats and dogs. Thanksgiving brings a variety of foods we as humans expect to enjoy such as turkey, ham, gravy, various vegetables and casseroles, and all the carbohydrates one can imagine in pies, cakes, cookies, puddings, etc.
Cats especially are true carnivores. They require a protein level of 44-46 percent in their diet for routine maintenance. This requires a meat source to obtain this level of protein. Almost any level of carbohydrate can result in a weight gain in the form of fat. Certainly the rich gravy can do likewise, in addition to causing a raging diarrhea in both dogs and cats. Rich foods also can cause pancreatitis in pets which is far more serious to treat, as well as life-threatening.
One of the worst health hazards is feeding a pet, or allowing them to eat bones. Bones can become lodged in the throat, esophagus or GI tract. This can lead to a puncture of the gut, which can lead to death if not discovered soon enough and surgically corrected. Any type of turkey, chicken or rib bones are prone to do this. To be sure a pet does not have access to these things, appoint a “guard” for the table and cooking area to watch for the clever pet that steals a bite when you are not looking. This should be someone not involved with the meal preparation that can watch the area and prevent accidents.
Other popular things that can be deadly and are frequently found in our homes during the holidays include raisins or grapes, chocolate, various plants such as holly, poinsettia, mistletoe and ivy can all be lethal or cause G.I. upset.
When the tree arrives, pine needles, electric cords, tree preservatives such as sugar and aspirin in the tree water, tensile, ornaments and icicles all add to the holiday hazards list. Pine needles also can puncture through intestines if eaten.
Cats especially have a fetish for string, bows and ribbons. Always guard against letting them play with strings, thread, tinsel and other long flowing items. Once these are ingested, they string out along the inside of the intestine. As they work through the long tubular organ they begin to saw holes in the wall of the gut as it does its normal peristaltic motion back and forth to digest food. Again this can result in a hole in the gut, peritonitis and death.
Extra company will be arriving and leaving the house, which can create a stressful environment for pets. Also it can offer an escape route and let pets outside where their chance of survival drops in half. It is a good idea to provide a bedroom or utility, any area away from the hustle and bustle, so they can have a quiet retreat until things settle down.
Candles also can create a hazard especially for curious cats. Burned whiskers or worse are not uncommon happenings. Other hazards may be created if a candle is placed too close to curtains or other flammable objects where a cat or dog may frequent and cause a fire to result from the lit candle. Remember never to leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle for both burn and fire hazard reasons.
Enjoy this holiday season but with each addition of special foods, decorations and holiday items to the house, think through any hazard it could create for the family as well as the pets.
DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.